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February 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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Canada to investigate Russian flight's violation of airspace ban

Canada says it plans to launch an investigation into an Aeroflot flight from Miami to Moscow that entered Canadian airspace Sunday — violating a ban on all Russian flights due to the ongoing invasion in Ukraine.

“We are aware that Aeroflot flight 111 violated the prohibition put in place earlier today on Russian flights using Canadian airspace. We are launching a review of the conduct of Aeroflot and the independent air navigation service provider, NAVCAN, leading up to this violation. We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations,” Transport Canada said Sunday on Twitter.

Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said earlier Sunday that the country’s airspace was closed to all Russian aircraft operators. “We will hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks against Ukraine,” he said in a tweet.

CNN has reached out to Transport Canada and Aeroflot for additional details. 

Analysis: Why the US isn't sending troops into Ukraine

Russia’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine has faced universal condemnation from Western powers. But putting troops on the ground in Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, is a line that the US and other Western allies have not been willing to cross.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN on Sunday that the Biden administration “has made clear” the US will not “put boots on the ground.”

Here are some factors behind that decision:

  • It could touch off a global war: As President Joe Biden told NBC News earlier this month, “That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another.” Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a national security and military analyst for CNN, said on Sunday that while the Russian invasion was devastating, “it is still a regional conflict,” that could spiral into a multinational one if the US or NATO sent troops into the country.
  • What about troops in Europe? While the US has thousands of troops across Europe, they are not there to fight the Russians — rather, to defend and reassure NATO allies, Biden said on Thursday.
  • When could the US get involved? Ukraine borders the NATO member countries of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. If Russia threatened one of these countries, the US — along with France, Germany, the UK and the rest of the 30-member NATO alliance — would be required by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to respond.

Read the full analysis:

Brazil's Bolsonaro refuses to sanction Russia, says Ukrainians "trusted a comedian with the fate of a nation"

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has taken a neutral stance on Ukraine.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Sunday, adding that Brazil would “adopt a neutral stance on Ukraine” and will not impose sanctions on Russia.

Speaking at a news conference while on vacation, Bolsonaro said Ukrainians had “trusted a comedian with the fate of a nation” — referring to Zelensky’s former career as an actor and comedian.

He also pointed out that Brazil is dependent on Russian fertilizer, and that action against Moscow “could bring serious harm to agriculture in Brazil.” He added that he was in support of peace — “but we don’t want to bring more problems to Brazil.”

When questioned about a possible massacre in Ukraine, Bolsonaro said it was “an exaggeration to speak of massacre,” and defended Russia’s move to recognize the pro-Moscow separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine as independent.

Bolsonaro met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Moscow on Feb. 16. 

The Brazilian President’s comments Sunday came after the United Nations Security Council voted by majority to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss Russia’s invasion. Brazil voted in favor of holding the meeting while Russia voted against it. India, China and the UAE abstained.

Biden to hold call with US allies on Monday to discuss the Ukraine situation

US President Joe Biden answers questions after delivering remarks about Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

US President Joe Biden will hold a call with US allies on Monday morning to discuss the situation in Ukraine and their coordinated response, according to the White House. 

The call will take place at 11:15 a.m. E.T.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his G7 counterparts “underscored” the “unified response to Russia’s invasion,” in a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, according to a State Department readout.

Google cuts off ad revenue to Russian state media

People walk past Google's offices in New York.

Google will no longer allow Russian state media outlets to run ads, following a similar decision on Saturday by the tech giant’s video subsidiary, YouTube.

“In response to the war in Ukraine, we are pausing Google monetization of Russian state-funded media across our platforms,” Google said in a statement. “We’re actively monitoring new developments and will take further steps if necessary.”

The announcement marks the latest blow to Russia-linked media amid a wave of criticism directed at Big Tech platforms in the past week for allowing monetization to continue despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

On Friday, Meta, Facebook’s parent, said it would suspend Russian state media’s ability to run ads and monetize them on its platforms.

Analysis: What can we expect from meeting of Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday?

The stage is set for a meeting between Russia and Ukraine Monday on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.

Is this a diplomatic breakthrough or a political sideshow while Russia continues its offensive in Ukraine?

Let’s be clear what this isn’t: The meeting is not a summit between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Instead, it’s a meeting between delegations from both sides. Zelensky’s office said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko called the Ukrainian President Sunday and offered safety guarantees, saying Lukashenko had “taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on the Belarusian territory will remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, meeting and return.”

But can Ukraine accept any guarantees from Lukashenko? This is the same leader whose authorities forced down a Ryanair flight over Belarusian airspace last year, alleging a “security alert,” and arrested a young Belarusian dissident, prompting international outcry.

Monday’s planned meeting follows a flurry of statements from the Kremlin, which claimed earlier the Ukrainian side had countered Russia’s proposal to meet in Belarus with a proposal to meet in Warsaw and then dropped contact. Zelensky’s office denied claims they refused to negotiate.

What the meeting might produce: Zelensky himself on Sunday set low expectations for the meeting, and it is tempting to guess that the meeting on the border will yield little. But it does offer Putin at least some potential room for an exit from the war in Ukraine, if his troops continue to encounter battlefield setbacks against Ukrainian forces.

Read the full analysis:

Ukrainian troops inspect the site following a Russian airstrike in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Is the Ukraine-Russia meeting a path forward or political sideshow? | CNN

US first lady Jill Biden expresses concern for mental health as Ukraine crisis unfolds

US first lady Jill Biden speaks in Washington, DC, on February 7.

US first lady Jill Biden expressed concern for the mental health of those anxious about the conflict in Ukraine on Sunday.

“I imagine many of us are feeling the weight of what is happening in Ukraine over recent days,” she said in a series of tweets. “Parents are sitting in front of the television with their children, explaining reports from thousands of miles away. Teachers are standing in front of classrooms, answering questions of ‘why’ and ‘what is going to happen next?’”

She encouraged people to reach out for help, and added that she and US President Joe Biden were praying for “the brave and proud people of Ukraine.”

“Our hearts are with our troops and our military families, including those who are stationed throughout Europe demonstrating solidarity with our Allies. We are profoundly grateful for your service,” she wrote. 

Google Maps suspends live traffic layer in Ukraine

Cars line up on the road outside Mostyska, Ukraine, as people attempt to flee to Poland on Sunday.

Google Maps has blocked two features in Ukraine that provide information to users in real time, the company confirmed to CNN on Sunday. 

The disabled features include Google Maps’ live traffic overlay — a feature some researchers have used to monitor the conflict from afar — as well as Live Busyness, a feature that displays how popular a location may be at a given time.

Google made the change in an effort to help keep Ukrainians safe and after consultations with local officials, the company said. 

Traffic updates are still available in Ukraine while using Google Maps’ navigation mode, Google said. 

UK to crack down on "dirty money" from Russian oligarchs

British leaders plan to introduce legislation in Parliament on Monday aimed at clamping down on money laundering and fraud following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    

The measure would strengthen law enforcement to go after corrupt oligarchs and create a so-called “Register of Overseas Entities,” where foreigners who own property in the United Kingdom must be identified by name, according to a government statement.

“There is no place for dirty money in the UK,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the statement. “We are going faster and harder to tear back the façade that those supporting Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long.” 

The government said the registry sets up a new standard for global transparency so “criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.”  

The registry will be retroactive for property bought up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since 2014 in Scotland. The bill also includes a prison sentence of up to five years for anyone breaking the new rules.  

Some context: Decades of loose regulation and courting of Russian investors mean that some allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are now deeply integrated into UK society.

Wealthy Russians flocked to London over the past three decades after gaining entry to the UK via investor visa programs, according to a report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament in 2020. Light-touch regulation, lucrative investment opportunities and a legal system that can be used to settle disputes helped attract the oligarchs.

Many Russian oligarchs made their fortunes when state-owned companies were privatized in the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In London, they found an army of lawyers and bankers who were willing to help them invest in UK companies and London property, according to analysts.

US and allied partners to Ukrainian foreign minister: "We stand with Ukraine"

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his G7 counterparts “underscored” the “unified response to Russia’s invasion,” in a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Sunday, according to a State Department readout.

“Together we are supporting the Ukrainian people and imposing severe costs and consequences to hold Russia accountable for its war of choice,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We stand with Ukraine and recognize the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people.”

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the High Representative of the European Union were also on the call.

European Commission president says EU wants Ukraine to join bloc 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on Sunday.

Ukraine belongs in the European Union (EU) and the bloc wants them in, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a televised interview with Euronews Sunday. 

“We have a process with Ukraine that is, for example, integrating the Ukrainian market into the single market. We have very close cooperation on the energy grid, for example. So many topics where we work very closely together and indeed over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in,” von der Leyen said. 

In a tweet Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke to von der Leyen about strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities and its membership in the EU.  

Becoming a member of the bloc is a complex procedure and Ukraine is currently not an official candidate for EU accession. 

Responding to a question on the possibility of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, von der Leyen told Euronews it was “important” Ukraine “agrees to the peace talks and that conditions are fine” but “trust in President Putin is completely broken and eroded.”

The interview followed the EU’s announcement on Sunday to provide arms to Ukraine as its military tries to hold back Russian forces. 

“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” the EC statement said. 

USAID director visits the Poland-Ukraine border, speaks with Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion

President Joe Biden’s USAID director Samantha Power was at the Poland-Ukraine border Sunday observing arriving refugees. 

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the federal agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and other assistance.

Power reflected on what she saw at the border, mentioning how the group of people crossing the border are almost exclusively women and children. 

“As somebody who has covered a lot of refugee crises over the years, really one of the most striking features of today’s population coming over is that it’s almost exclusively women and children and this speaks to the kind of society-wide mobilization that has occurred in Ukraine and that fighting-age men are staying behind to be part of these territorial defense units,” Power said. 

Men between the ages of 18-60 are currently not permitted to leave Ukraine.

She added: “It was harrowing, this journey for the families that I talked to.”

Power also talked about the “shock” many Ukrainians expressed over Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and their desire for peace. 

On Sunday evening, Power tweeted out a video from her visit close to Poland’s border with Ukraine, adding more about what she saw. 

On Saturday, USAID said Power was traveling “to Poland and Belgium on February 26-28 to discuss the U.S. government’s coordinated response with allies and partners to respond to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

Australian financial sanctions, travel bans against Putin and other Russian officials come into effect 

Australian travel bans and targeted financial sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior members of his government are now in effect, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed in a statement Monday. 

“From midnight last night, Australian targeted financial sanctions and travel bans came into effect on the Russian President and remaining permanent members of Russia’s Security Council: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev,” a statement from Morrison’s office said. 

“It is exceedingly rare to designate a head of state and reflects the depth of our concerns. President Putin joins a very small group that includes Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mu’ammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria,” it continued. 

The Australian government has also committed to providing lethal and non-lethal military equipment, medical supplies, and financial assistance to support Ukraine, as well as contributing US $3 million to NATO’s Trust Fund for Ukraine. 

“Details of Australia’s contribution of lethal military equipment are being worked through with our partners and will be announced soon,” Morrison’s office said. 

The Morrison government had previously only committed to sending non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. 

Australia has now sanctioned more than 350 Russian individuals and 13 Belarusian individuals and entities including Belarusian Minister of Defence Viktor Khrenin, since Russia invaded Ukraine last week. 

The US, along with the European Commission (EC), France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and Canada, announced on Saturday they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security financial network that facilities the smooth and rapid transfer of money globally. 

On Monday, Morrison’s office said Australia would “take complementary steps as required,” to block Russia’s access to SWIFT. 

Ukraine claims successful drone attacks against Russian forces